Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What time is bedtime for kids?

Quite unintentionally I have gotten into discussions with other moms about bedtime lately. By this, I don't mean the routine of it, I mean the actual time you put your children to bed. Having done a lot of reading on the importance of routine and sleep for children, I have a pretty good idea of the recommended number of hours children should sleep in a day. I know consistency is best. I know having a routine works. My kids (ages 1, 4, and 6) have a bedtime of 7:30. This translates to the 1 year old in her crib sleeping by 7:30 each night and the 4 and 6 year olds in their beds ready to sleep at 7:30 and sleeping by 8:00. We get up in the morning somewhere between 6:30 and 7am so this equals a good amount of sleep for them. I have a friend who abides by the same kind of schedule. Her 6 year old has a bedtime of 7:30, her 8 year old - 8:00 and her 10 year old - 8:30. Again, it works for them. The kids are well rested and wake up naturally in the morning with good energy for the day. What I haven't told you yet is that both of us are born North Americans (I'm Canadian and she's American by birth). We were both raised with the same Western notions of bedtime.
Another friend of mine is from Pakistan. She's been in Canada for a year and a half and really has a difficult time with the Western notion of bedtimes for children. In her culture supper before 8pm is considered early (we eat at 6pm in our house) and generally bedtime is closer to 10:00. She has adjusted somewhat for the sake of her 6 year old son for school (feeding him dinner at 8:30 and then putting him to bed), but the idea of eating earlier and putting your children to bed earlier really takes her back.
Similarly, I babysit a child whose parents have immigrated here from Romania. The mother was telling me that she was so happy that she got her son to sleep at 9:30 the night before (he's 2). She is finding it difficult to wake him at 7 in the morning. 9:30! I thought. Oh my goodness, I couldn't fathom having my kids up that late. 9:30 for me is my time to visit with my husband and relax before I go to bed. You should have seen the look on her face when I told her my kids' bedtimes. She was floored. She grew up watching bedtime stories on TV during the 9:00 hour and the notion of putting her child to bed before 9pm is inconceivable to her.
Another child I babysit has parents from Iran. On his child profile sheet the bedtime is listed as anywhere from 10pm to midnight. Wow! Again, I think it is a cultural thing. They are having a difficult time waking him up on his daycare days because they are so used to sleeping until 11am/noon. Getting up to go to classes and have him at daycare for 9am is a stretch.
This all triggered a memory of an ex-student of mine years ago. He was in grade 1 and was really grumpy and having behavior issues in the classroom. I met with his parents to talk about it. On a hunch, I asked about his bedtime. Their answer was, "oh, 10, 10:30" This child's family was from India originally. This particular school started at 8:25am. I suggested that they try putting him to bed at 8:30 at the latest just to see what happens. They did. The improvement in his behavior at school was remarkable. You wouldn't believe it was the same child. Here I am so many years later just learning why his bedtime had originally been so late, it was their culture to do so.
I don't know about you, but I find this all fascinating. Here in Canada we have based our work days and school calendars on the old agrarian schedule. Up at dawn and meals at 7, noon and 5 (or thereabouts). We are also a country now that is truly made up of so many different cultures. Bedtime is just one aspect of this that shows where we come from.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Taking Care of Mama - Eating Well

We've all done it from time to time - taken bites of the kid's leftovers because we don't like wasting food, grabbing a pop from the fridge because it's an easy drink, snacked on chips because they are handy. Let's face it we are busy people. Convenience is well, convenient. It's also bringing a recipe for disaster (pardon my pun). I know that where I am at weight wise and health wise is a result of all of these little habits. Part of my plan of re-evaluating my life and working towards taking better care of myself include looking at my own eating habits and making a change for the better.
Here are some things that I've started to incorporate in my life to help me on the road to a better me.

1) Water,water, water - I don't know why turning on the tap seems like such a big deal. It's not. I've deliberately left pop off my grocery list this past month and started filling up my big water bottle. Every morning, it's part of my new morning routine. I keep my water bottle close at hand to grab throughout the day. I'm very pleased to say that I have been pop free for one month now and I feel better for it.

2) Eat your veggies - yes chips are easier. Here's how I'm making snacking on veggies easier. I keep a container of cut up veggies in my fridge. The day after my grocery shop, I take the time to chop up my favorites and toss them into the container. Makes for a quick and healthy snack.

3) Reasonably portioning out meals - I have a good sense of how much food my kids need on their plates. I also know how much is a portion for myself. By taking a few extra minutes at meal time to measure out servings I'm eating the amount I'm supposed to. I've also made it okay with myself to toss out the few bites that may remain on the kids plates. I don't need those calories.

4) Planning out our meals - this is something we started a few years back. I plan meals out for 2 weeks at a time before I grocery shop. I plan meals that are an interesting balance of good tasting and good for you food. As a result we eat out a lot less. And I mean a lot! Picking up fast food just isn't an option any more because I really like the meals we make. It's also a balance of intense and easy to prepare meals. A typical week looks something like this:
Sunday - Thai curry
Monday - chicken, sweet potato fries, veggies
Tuesday - fish, rice, veggies
Wednesday - pizza
Thursday - leftovers
Friday - steak, baked potatoes, salad
Saturday - spaghetti
Wednesday night is always pizza, Thursday is always leftovers

5) Only have in the house what is good for me. Just like keeping pop out, I don't buy potato chips, chocolate or anything else I would enjoy snacking on for the moment.

6) Popcorn - popcorn is a fantastic snack - hot air popped is low in calories, high in fibre and delicious

Sometimes it is the small changes in your life that can have the most positive effect. You'll be amazed how how amazing you feel!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Finding the Time - Fitness

Continuing on the theme of finding some mama time and taking care of yourself I am blogging about time for fitness today. I fully admit that I am not one of those mamas who are gym junkies. I know these women are out there and all I have to say to that is good for you. For people like me finding work out time is a big struggle. It just has not been a priority for me. I'd like it to be. I've had times in my life where I was very consistent in gym time or at home gym time, but I can't say that that has been true of late. It just seems like so much work and energy at the end of the day. I have a tough time finding the time to fit it into my day. I've tried a bunch of different ways. I find it hilarious to try to work out with the kids around because they are either trying to do what I'm doing, or trying to crawl all over me (which isn't very productive). I find I'm wasted tired at the end of the day when they are in bed and it's the last thing I want to do. Although the funny thing is is that when I am working out regularly, I really enjoy it and have more energy. I'd love to find a gym that didn't charge an arm and a leg for childcare (the whole reason I had to let my last gym membership go was because I couldn't afford the daycare for 2 children and now I have 3 of them). So what do you do? You are all busy moms. How do you get a good workout in during the week 3 or 4 or 5 times? I'd love to know.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Taking Care of Yourself - Spiritually

The last post I wrote about Making Time for Mama seemed to hit a chord with other Mamas. It got me thinking about ways that we should be (I should be) taking care of ourselves. You know the things that often get pushed aside because we're just a little bit too busy for that right now. Yet it is often these things that build us up the most. As I start to work these areas back into my life, I'd like to share them with you.
I very rarely write about my spirituality on here. But it is an area of my life that I know has been suffering lately. I've been a Christian for over 11 years now. My relationship with Jesus is an extremely important part of my life, but you wouldn't know it lately by the way I spend my time. Sure, I still teach Sunday School and pray with my kids each night, but that's giving out time, not pouring in time. I've been slack on my personal Bible reading and simply spending time in worship or in a quiet place with God.
So, what am I doing about it? I started off easy. I first picked up a copy of Our Daily Bread at church. Our Daily Bread is a daily devotional published by RBC Ministries and distributed for free. It is an easy jump start to reading your bible and thinking about life with God. Having it on hand worked for me, but once the 3 months was over (it's printed in 3 month chunks) I couldn't find the next publication. I was really disappointed by this. I also knew I couldn't slack back again and use it as an excuse. On a whim I did a Google Search and sure enough Our Daily Bread can be emailed directly to you each day. So now each morning I start the day, iPhone in hand with Our Daily Bread. It links the reading to Bible Gateway which is very handy, so you don't have to be fiddling with any books or papers. I'm really happy about this one.
What's the next step? I need some time for worship. Sometimes it is as simple as putting on one song of praise and singing your heart out or dancing (no one's watching, except maybe your kids, and chances are they'll love it too).
It is also as simple as finding maybe 15 minutes in your day and being still before the Lord.
Because I teach Sunday School, I often am not in the service to hear a sermon. I've started making up for that by using . One Place, if you aren't familiar with it, broadcasts most well known ministries on line. So when I'm cooking or cleaning, I can have a preacher I enjoy on on my computer. It makes for good company. I quite enjoy listening to Chuck Swindoll, David Jeremiah and Greg Laurie. They've got good stuff to say.
Recently Greg Laurie shared some advice that was given to Billy Sunday when he was a new Christian. Spend 15 minutes a day talking to God, 15 minutes a day listening to God and 15 minutes a day talking with someone else about God and it will change your life. I thought it was good advice. Look where it took Billy Sunday.
This is where I'm at. These are the ways that I'm looking to fill the spiritual needs in my life. How about you?

Links related to this post:
RBC Ministries (where you can sign up for Our Daily Bread)
One Place (where you can hear many different sermons)
Billy Sunday

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Time for Mama

"You look relaxed" my husband declared last night. He was right. I was. Very. Relaxed.
This was a long time coming. Recently I've been feeling over-stressed and edgy and I didn't know why. I've been living as a SAHM (apologies to all who are full time SAHMs who may take this the wrong way, it's not intended that way). I figured as a SAHM I would have lots of time. Time to do housework. Time to spend with my kids. Time to spend with my husband. And time for me. What I didn't count on was my own sense of self. Self-worth and productivity were all muddled up in a very strange twisted dichotomy.
You see the first year at home, I wasn't really a SAHM. I was a woman on mat leave. I was still getting paid, but was staying home with my kids. Since February, my mat leave has run out and I'm on extended leave without pay. I figured I would be able to pick up some home daycare work. That prooved easier said than done. And I really was living as a SAHM. Just me. At home. With my kids. No income.
What I found myself doing at first was intense work. I had lists, I had things to do, I was being busy. Then all those lists and business started taking their toll. What good was it doing laundry when all you ever did was laundry (with 5 people in the house it never gets completely finished). Same with the dishes, and any sort of cleaning. I was becoming disheartened. The more I worked, the more work there seemed to be. Nothing seemed to be getting done, even though it was.
I also found myself getting edgy with my kids. Little things were driving me insane. But even my husband's suggestions of getting out of the house for an hour or two rubbed me the wrong way. How could I leave when I had to be doing something.
Therein lied the problem. Because I was no longer bringing an income in to the home, I felt that my value as wife/mother rested in me contributing. I started doing more in an unhealthy way. When my husband declared that I was contributing, I was of value, I didn't hear him. I was only hearing the little voice in my head that told me to keep going and going. And going and going I started to realize was breaking me down. I was not being the wife and mother that I should be. The night my husband sent me out of the house with orders (really suggestions) to visit Chapters and get a Chai Tea Latte at Starbucks was a turning point for me. Of course I needed some me time. I started to relax and enjoy the break instead of resenting being sent out of the house. Since that night (2 weeks ago), I've started to see me again. The me who loves my kids and plays with them. The me who does stuff around the house not because it's a chore but because I like having a clean home. The me who prepares food that is healthy and tasty. The me who takes an hour here and there to spend enjoying my husband's company. The me who walks in the sunshine to the library pushing the stroller. The me who takes a bubble bath on a Saturday night good book in hand, followed by a glass of wine and a good movie. Interestingly enough, this me gets more accomplished. This me is more pleasant to be around. This me is in fact relaxed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Saving Women's Hearts Blog Tour - Winner

The Winner of Saving Women's Hearts is Katie of Kate's Kitchen! Enjoy your book Katie!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Take the Pledge

Jill and I have been Mommy Bloggers for a number of years now.  It is only recently that I've started to hear some terrible stories of bullying among mommy bloggers.  It breaks my heart.  I truly believe that all of us do the best we can as parents.  As a community I would hope that we would support and encourage each other in our parenting.  One mommy blogger has had enough and is doing what she can to draw all mommy bloggers together in the community.  To read more about the mommy blogger pledge and take it yourself check it out here.  We can make a difference together!

BWS tips button

Friday, March 4, 2011

Saving Women's Hearts Blog Tour

As part of our partnership with Mom Central Canada, I get sent items from time to time to review and share with you.  At the end of February I received a copy of "Saving Women's Hearts" a book written by women for women to raise awareness of heart disease in women.  One of the authors is a cardiologist specializing in cardiology for women and the other is a pharmacist and fitness instructor, dedicated to promoting a healthy lifestyle.  
So why this book?  Why is it important?  Heart disease is the number one killer of women in North America.  It is also one of the least researched and published areas in medicine.  Kinda scary in this day and age isn't it?  Did you know that heart disease presents differently in women than in men?  But until the 1990's most of the studies in heart disease were focused solely on men.  So what you know about heart attacks most likely describe a male heart attack, not a female one. 
The authors include a quiz on heart health at the beginning of the book.  I was shocked and embarrassed about how little I actually know.  Fortunately this book is written in language that is easy to follow and understand.  Being a busy mom, I was worried about getting bogged down in some sort of scientific text.  This wasn't the case.  I could pick this one up and down as time permitted to gain a little bit more knowledge in this area.  This is a great book for any woman to have on her shelf.
Thanks to Mom Central we are giving away a copy of this book to one of our readers!  To enter, leave a comment telling why you would like to have a copy of this fabulous book.  Please leave your email address as well so I can contact you if your name is drawn.  The contest closes on Wednesday, March 9, 2011.
Disclosure - I am participating in the Saving Women’s Hearts program by Mom Central on behalf of Wiley Publishing.  I received a copy of the book to review and gift card as a thank you for my participation.  The opinions on this blog are my own.
*Because I feel this book is so important, I am running this contest concurrently on my book blog site  - One winner will be drawn between the 2 sites.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Keeping Toddlers Busy Inside: Part Two: Movement and Interaction

Toddlers are learning to move their bodies and to communicate. These are two of their strongest drives at this age. They are full of energy and excited about exploring, and yet in the winter they need to be protected from the elements. So, what are we to do with these busy little bodies in the winter months?

Go out to somewhere where they can move:
  • library story time
  • a playgroup (most communities have one meeting in a gym or church)
  • the mall in the morning when there are few shoppers
  • a kid friendly coffee shop with a toy corner
  • a resteraunt with a play place

Try to avoid really busy locations or places where your toddler must sit for a long time. A couple of times a week take them out to somewhere wehre they can run, climb, dance, sing and see people.

Because toddlers like routine, it is good to pick one or two "out" days to go to the same activities and see the same people.

Remember that this time is not for you to begningly neglect your child. At this age they must be followed. Even at a "kid friendly" place, small children must be kept safe and taught to behave well.

Provide outlets for energy at home:

    • play chase
      play peek-a-boo
      put on music and dance
      have a tickle fight
      give them a laundry basket, empty box, toy stroller or wagon to push around
      lay pillows and couch cushions on the floor and let them climb, bounce and roll around
      make or buy some soft fabric balls or beanbags for safe throwing

  • As well as needing movement, toddlers learn primarily through interacting with people and things and through imitating the tasks they see adults performing every day. They love to show you what they are doing, and watch what you are doing.

    Get down to their level and play:

    • sit on the floor and watch what they are doing. Spend a few moments listening to their babble and actions. Then give them words by describing what they are doing. Watch your toddlers face light up when they see you recognize what they are up to
      if they are listless, pull out a familiar toy and show your toddler how to use it in a different way. For instance, find or build a ramp they can roll their cars down. Build a stack of blocks and knock it over. Pull out a blanket and play peek-a-boo
      read or look at some board books. Toddlers read books in different ways. My oldest son loved to lie on the floor and have us read every book in the house to him while he kicked his feet. My middle son loved to point at things and let us tell him the name or make a noise. My daughter likes to read the same three or four pages over and over. Let them lead the way you read the books.

  • Bring them up to your level to see what is happening:

    • carry your baby in a backpack or baby sling. Let them watch you cook, clean or go about your routine.
      set them up on a chair so they can watch what you are doing at the kitchen counter. Give the toddler a dull knife or spoon and some real, safe food to play with while you prepare supper.
      let them feel and taste safe foods, wet cloths, soapy water and kitchen utensils. Let them handle hammers, screw drivers, potato mashers and other real life objects.
      give them a basket, box, or bin of things to play with and explore while sitting on the floor. Do your paperwork or check your email sitting on the floor next to them

  • Hope these suggestions help you play with your toddler.

    Next up: good toys for toddlers.



    We'd love to hear from you. Email us with your feedback, suggestions and general blog love at